This past Sunday, I taught a class on a prayer practice called lectio divina, which literally means “holy reading.” According to Rhonda Lee in Seek and You Will Find: Discovering a Practice of Prayer, the practice has roots in early church history, dating as far back as Origen of Alexandria’s scholarship in the early 3rd century. It was also something St. Benedict encouraged his monks to take up in the 6th century as part of their daily rhythms of work and prayer.
The practice rubs against the grain of how we usually read. We often read to obtain information or understand a narrative; we aim for comprehension and retention. While practicing lectio divina, you focus on a small text—even a verse or a single line of Scripture—and you sit with it. The goal is not to gain a full understanding of the historical context of what you are reading, or even a sense of what the story means within the larger Scriptural narrative. You ruminate on a particular word or phrase so that prayer may flow forth from the experience.
Practicing this kind of attention is counter-cultural. In a world of endless news cycles and constant distraction, I’ve found it to be an enriching and grounding endeavor.
I invite you to try it out. You can hear a more thorough description of the practice in my class from last Sunday, or you can skip ahead to the practice portion (around 23:45). The text we used is Exodus 3:1-5, which you can find below.
Now Moses was tending the flock of Jethro his father-in-law… and he led the flock to the far side of the wilderness and came to Horeb, the mountain of God. There the angel of the Lord appeared to him in flames of fire from within a bush. Moses saw that though the bush was on fire it did not burn up. So Moses thought, “I will go over and see this strange sight—why the bush does not burn up.”
When the Lord saw that he had gone over to look, God called to him from within the bush, “Moses! Moses!”
And Moses said, “Here I am.”
“Do not come any closer,” God said. “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.”
Exodus 3:1-5 (NRSV)
Tags: From the Clergy, Hope for the Journey